Why Can Parrots Talk Like Humans?

Parrots are interesting. They’re very colorful, singful, if you will, and beautiful birds. Incredibly distinct from others. There are regular parrots, there are Dracula parrots, and many others. However, besides their beauty, they’re also known for their vocal abilities. Particularly, their ability to mimic sounds. Particularly, mimic human sounds. It’s almost like you can have a conversation with them. Now that’s interesting, isn’t it? Because you can’t really have verbal conversations with our closest animal relatives, like chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos or orangutans. Neither can you talk with most popular pets like dogs and cats, who have been in contact with humans for thousands of years. So, the question is, why can parrots talk like humans?

Unique Voice Boxes of Parrots

Unique parrot voice boxes. Image credits: Journal of Experimental Biology

What makes parrots very different from most other animals, is their voice boxes. A bird’s voice box is called “syrinx”. It’s quite distinct from the voice box that we have, for example. Which is called larynx, by the way.

Here are the main differences between larynx and syrinx.

Larynx is an organ, that all mammals have, which is involved in breath control, protection of the trachea and sound production. It has vocal cords in it, helping us to create different sounds. It’s also in a place where the upper tract splits into trachea and the oesophagus/esophagus.

Syrinx, on the other hand, is a similar organ to larynx, but it’s widely considered to be less complex in structure. It’s essentially a lower larynx which is situated at the bottom of trachea.

Aaaaaand, parrots have two syrinxes. Which helps them to produce a variety of sounds. From mimicking humans speech, to mimicking camera and various other sounds.

How Do Parrots Produce Those Sounds?

Parrots can produce a very wide variety of sounds.

It’s one thing to have two syrinxes, but how is it that parrots are capable of perfectly producing such a large variety of complex sounds?

Different sounds require different method of producing those sounds.

In order to produce vowel sounds, like a, e, y, o, u and i, parrots have to move their tongues forward and backward and properly adjust their beak openings in a particular way.

Plosives, like t, k, p, t, d and g require parrots to use something called “esophageal speech”. See us, humans, we have use our lips to finish producing these sounds. Parrots don’t have lips, they have beaks. So as air is coming from the trachea, they trap it and release it, kinda like burping,

The Mimicking Brain of Parrots

Parrots are very unique among birds, in terms of their ability to mimic so many different sounds.

Parrots are natural communicators. They are incredibly social birds, generally, and they rely on sounds in order to communicate, mate, warn of dangers and so on.

Their brains are wired for communication and ability to produce a wide variety of sounds, for survival. They begin learning mimicking various sounds as soon as they are born.

Conclusion

Hopefully you’ve learned a thing or two about unique anatomy of parrot voice boxes and how they produce and mimic various sounds. And that concludes this Why Can Parrots Talk Like Humans article.

This article is pretty short and plain. But information about parrots are not. If you’d like to know more about them, overall, here’s 15 Unbelievable Facts About Parrots.

If you’d like to learn more about how parrots can “talk”, here’s a link to a different website.

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